Larry R. Gerlach--author of the book, “Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah” (1982), as well as of the essay, "A Battle of Empires: The Klan in Salt Lake City" (published in “The Invisible Empire in the West: Toward a New Historical Appraisal of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s,” Shawn Lay, ed., 1991)--notes the following about historical Mormon involvement in the Utah Ku Klux Klan.
It is a version of events that, while containing important information, in and of itself, does not tell the whole sordid story. That is a task left to other historians, journalists and authors who (along with Gerlach, who himself contributes more along the way), produces of a larger picture of the racist Mormon Church, its racist Mormon members and the rise of the racist Klan in Utah.
--The Early Mormon Church and Its Initial Resistance to the Utah KKK
Gerlach writes rather benignly:
“A secret, ritualistic, vigilante organization founded in 1865 in Pulaski, Tennessee, the Ku Klux Klan has had a continuing impact on Utah and American history. Although its agenda and methods of operation have changed over the years, the robed and hooded members of the 'Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan' have consistently advocated White supremacy, . . .
“. . . Mormon missionaries in the South during the late 19th century often were targets of Klan-inspired threats and physical abuse. Consequently, Utahns viewed the KKK negatively and the LDS Church reaffirmed its doctrinal opposition to 'secret Societies.' . . .
“The ideology of the original Klan remained intact [through 1915], but the KKK of the 1920s thrived on nativism, anti-Catholicism, opposition to the cultural modernism of the Jazz Era, and violations of alcohol, smoking and gambling laws.
“The new Klan appeared in Utah in 1921 when a coalition of anti-Mormons, Masons and non-Mormon businessmen formed Salt Lake City Klavern No. 1, which largely was a response to the economic power of the Mormon mercantile establishment and the political influence of the LDS Church. But the Klavern soon collapsed because of internal dissension, fear of economic reprisals and the outspoken opposition of Mormon Church leaders and the press, particularly the Church-owned 'Deseret News.'
“ . . . [However], in 1924-25, the Utah Klan suddenly experienced a rapid increase in membership and activity when Klan organizers (Kleagles) arrived in the state as part of a nationwide membership campaign. Klansmen appeared in Cache, Box Elder, Weber, Davis, Salt Lake, Utah, Carbon, Juab, Sevier and Tooele counties. The Klan was most active in Logan, Ogden, Provo, Helper and Price in Carbon County with their large immigrant populations, and in the city and county of Salt Lake, where anti-Mormon politics and nativism attracted members. Estimates of peak Klan membership in Utah range from 2,000 to 5,000, with perhaps half of the Knights residing in Salt Lake County. Some Mormons joined the Klan, but the vast majority of Knights were non-Mormons, Masons and others from the ranks of the middle-aged and middle class. Cross burnings, outdoor initiation ceremonies, parades, and numerous acts of covert intimidation were commonplace. The Salt Lake Klavern even established a women's auxiliary, and hosted a regional Klonklave (meeting). However, the violence that marked Klan activities in other states was not a great part of the Utah Klan, although in Carbon County an elderly Italian man died from a heart attack after being chased by Klansmen, and a black man was hanged by a mob comprised largely of Klan members.
“The heyday of the Utah Klan was short-lived. The city commissions of Logan, Ogden, and Salt Lake City passed municipal ordinances banning the wearing of masks in public, the LDS Church again issued strong anti-Klan statements and warned its members to not to join the secret order . . . . Moreover, because of geographical considerations, diverse local agendas, and inadequate local leadership, the Utah Klaverns were never officially organized into a statewide administrative unit (Realm), nor did they publish a newspaper. Political efforts, whether through municipal electioneering or involvement in the anti-Mormon American party of 1923, were dismal failures.
“Klankraft in Utah faced a bleak future . . . [although] religiously, demographically and culturally, Utah society was remarkably close to the Old America the Klan idealized. Yet the primary obstacle to the growth of the Klan was the strident opposition of the dominant Mormon Church, which effectively functioned as an instrument of social regulation for most of the population. By the late 1920s, the Utah KKK was a dysfunctional organization represented by a handful of individuals who maintained membership in the national organization.”
--Popular Non-Mormon Images in Utah's KKK Eras Linking Mormons to the Klan
Perception in the public mind of members of the Mormon Church being synonymous with members of the Ku Klux Klan soon enough became a significant public relations problem--first in the Utah Territory and later in the state itself.
In answer to the following questions raised by an RfM poster: "([Was the Mormon] mask ban a reaction to [the] KKK? . . . Salt Lake City banned 'masks' as a way to deter the Klan. I wonder if this is the origin of discouraging mask on Halloween? Any ideas about this?"), forum contributor "didymus" helpfully points out that "[i]t actually [was] because of a bit of little-known history/and anti-Mormon propaganda that was accepted as fact," noting that "the famous silent film starring Mae Murray, 'A Mormon Maid,' showed the 'masked Mormons.' https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMCJfEa0OSM"
("Mask Ban a Reaction to KKK?," by "Mystery Mike," on "Recovery from Mormonism" discussion board, 9 December 2014, at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1454546,1454546#msg-1454546
; and "Re: Mask ban a reaction to KKK?," by "dydimus," on "RfM' discussion board, 10 December 2014, at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1454546,1454699#msg-1454699
Poster "dydimus" also references an article entitled, "Graphical Representations of Hooded Mormon Vigilantes," where author Edje Jeter provides historical background as found in the popular culture of the day tying the Mormon Church in with the KKK--a perception that, to some extent, had Mormons brought on themselves:
"Second only to polygamy, Mormons in the second half of the 19th century were known for violence. Paramilitary groups of 'Danites' or 'Avenging Angels' allegedly surveilled, threatened and/or killed as directed by Church leaders. In three instances that I know of, non-Mormons portrayed members of these groups as using robes, hoods and masks like those of the Ku Klux Klan. . . .
"Graphical images of Mormons preparing for or committing violent acts were relatively common, so the fact that only three show masked Mormons suggests, I think, that the hooded-vigilante image was not dominant, at least in the 19th century. On the other hand, multiple images of Mormon temple rites showed initiates and priests wearing robes and/or pointed head-gear, so the three instances below were not entirely alone.
". . . [O]ne of the earliest graphical depictions of Mormon violence includes specialized robes. In 'The History of the Saints' (1842), John C Bennett described a group whose members pledged, 'to destroy by fire and sword all the enemies of Mormonism.' When so engaged, the participants were 'clothed in female apparel, wearing a snow-white robe and a scarlet girdle.'
". . . In 1882 the cover of 'Sweet William, The Trapper Detective; or, The Chief of the Crimson Clan,' showed a robed, masked and hooded (presumed) Mormon next to a murder victim . . . [I]t seems that the hooded figure [was] acting as a law-enforcement officer. . . . (Of course, the first KKK also imagined itself as 'enforcing law').
"20 years later, detectives again encountered hooded Mormons in 'The Bradys Among the Mormons; or, Secret Work in Salt Lake City' (1903) from the series, 'Secret Service: Old and Young King Brady, Detectives' . . . . The figure on the front of the robes appear[ed] to be a heraldic lion salient. . . . [I]t seems that they were, again, enforcing laws. Terryl Givens wrote that 'such devices' as the masks 'sensationaliz[ed] Mormon secretiveness and mysteriousness' and 'preserved the illusion of a Mormon identity that was radically alien.' The title (and presumably cover) were repeated [possibly] of re-issues in 1907, 1917, and 1920.
"The last, and probably best known, example of violent, masked Mormons comes from the 1917 film, 'A Mormon Maid.' The actions of various 'Avenging Angels,' in robes and masks, dr[o]ve a significant part of the plot. Richard Alan Nelson reported (1987) that one of the movie inter-titles claimed that 'this costume--but with the cross substituted for the eye--was later adopted by the Ku Klux Klan.' [I know of no historical basis for the claim that Mormon paramilitary groups used such robes, much less that the KKK borrowed the idea. On the other hand, the 'all-seeing eye'--though not exclusively Mormon--was used by Mormons (for example, on the wall of the St. George Tabernacle).
"The Avenging Angels in 'A Mormon Maid' were emphatically the 'bad guys'--intimidating, spying, kidnapping, murdering and so on. Whereas in . . . the two stories above, the masked figures seem[ed] to be representing the community and carrying out its wishes, the Danites in 'A Mormon Maid 'represent[ed] the leadership and control[led] the community. Of course, . . . the question of representation largely depends on perspective; some non-Klan Southerners also felt represented and protected by the first Klan (1860s-1870s).
"The most important context for 'A Mormon Maid' is the 1915 film, 'The Birth of a Nation,' which featured nearly identical costumes and similar styles of action, though with the Klansmen as the 'good guys.' . . . On the one hand, 'Mormon Maid' portrayed Mormons quite negatively; on the other, putting the Avenging Angels in KKK robes might have partially undercut the negative impact since the Klan was enjoying a resurgence (i.e., the 'second Klan' was started in 1915 and used 'Birth of a Nation' as a recruiting tool)."
Mormons depicted in the popular culture of Utah's KKK era wearing Klan-like robes also included as case "show[ing] 14 male adults: 12 in white robes (the Destroying Angel) attacking one in 19th-century business clothes, while one in dark robes (Joseph Smith) supervises. Four of the figures [in this depiction were identified in the caption] by name . . . with correlating numbers near their feet in the image. The scene is set in a room with little or no furniture (there are two candle-stands and possible a book stand or altar in the background). Joseph Smith (#1) stands at far right wearing a dark-colored robe and a hat something like a three-pointed mitre. He appears to be directing the proceedings. 12 of the figures are wearing white robes held at the waist by a sash/girdle. Their headgear appears to be a combination between a turban and a top-hat. Each bears the same type of battle-axe, possibly intended as a horse-man’s axe from the 1400-1500s, approximately a meter long, with blade, hook and spike. . . . Two of the Angels restrain the (struggling) victim as D.B. Huntington (#2) raises his axe to strike a presumably lethal blow. Four of the Angels, at far left, merely observe, not holding their axes in readiness; another four, including R.D. Foster (#3), have postures suggesting they will join the action if necessary. The final Angel, Willard Richards (#4) stands in readiness but next to Smith, presumably as a bodyguard. . . .
". . . Givens, in 'The Viper on the Hearth: Mormons, Myths and the Construction of Heresy' [1st edition (New York: Oxford, 1997), p. 120] describes another image linking Mormons to Klansmen: '[Accompanying a small reproduction of the 'New York Detective' cover:] Masks and cloaks appear in this ‘New York Detective’ adventure, in the Frank Merriwell story, in Bessie Baine and many others. In addition to the obvious virtue of sensationalizing Mormon secretiveness and mysteriousness, such devices preserved the illusion of a Mormon identity that was radically alien.'"
("Graphical Representations of Hooded Mormon Vigilantes," by Edie Jeter, including movie stills and illustrations, in "The Juvenile Instructor of Young Latter-day Scholars,"
20 October 2013, at: http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/graphical-representations-of-hooded-mormon-vigilantes/
--Hold on to Your Hood: Revitalization of the Utah KKK, Thanks to Mormon Charter Enrollment
“. . . [N]early 50 years later, the KKK reappeared in the state as part of the 'third Klan movement' that rose in the 1970s as a reaction to various aspects of the Civil Rights movement (busing and affirmative action), increased immigration from Southeast Asia (notably Vietnam), and an economic recession. The modern Klan in Utah was founded in Riverton and went public by hanging effigies, burning crosses and distributing recruiting leaflets in Salt Lake County.
“In contrast with the 1920s Klan, the charter members of the new Klan were mostly Mormon, poorly educated and unskilled or semi-skilled blue-collar laborers. Despite modest success in obtaining recruits in Utah and Weber counties, the Klan was reduced to a handful of members by 1981. Driven underground by negative publicity from the press and close surveillance from law enforcement agencies and also split by rivalries within and among Klaverns, Klansmen either left the organization or moved to Idaho to join the various White supremacist organizations such as the Aryan Nations then flourishing in the Hayden Lake area."
("Ku Klux Klan," by Larry R. Gerlach, in "Utah HIostry Encyclopedia," at http://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/k/KU_KLUX_KLAN.ht
A noted expert in Mormon history (banished by the LDS Church for his inconvenient historical chronicles) helps fill in the details.
--Lynchings in Early Mormon Utah and How the LDS Church Played a Role in Their Occurence
Call if, if you will, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Lynchers.
Excommunicated Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn writes on the particularly gruesome, bigot-based Utah lynching of an African-American by a crazed mob of Salt Lake City Mormons--one that, even by standards of the wild American West, was shocking:
"After years of publishing endorsements of Mormon attacks on their enemies, the 'Deseret News' recoiled in horror in August 1883 when Mormons of Salt Lake City engaged in what a historian called 'one of the most extraordinary episodes of mob violence in the annals of the American West.'
"The incident began when Salt Lake City's police chief Andrew Burt attempted to arrest Sam Joe Harvey, an African-American, who then shot and killed Burt, who was also bishop of an LDS congregation. The other Mormon policemen disarmed Harvey and severely beat him with brass knuckles and billy clubs. Then the police simply handed the murderer over to a screaming mob which lynched him. Joined by hundreds of men, women and children who had learned of Burt's death, a crowd of at least 2,000 cheered those who dragged Harvey's corpse through the streets.
"Of this incident, Apostle Heber J. Grant wrote:
"'Learned that Bishop Andrew Burt of the 21st Ward was shot and killed yesterday by a negro and that the [rhymes with 'trigger'] that did the shooting had been hung by the citizens.'"
Some defenders of Mormonism have countered that racial lynchings in Utah were an anomaly uncharacteristic of LDS life and, besides, were not as frequent as seen in other states. However, the Mormon Church in Utah evidenced an historic tendency to look the other way when it came to religiously-justified killings and, in fact, established its own system of revenge-based justice outside the accepted norms of secular legal proceedings--a system that, in the name of the Mormon God, encouraged theocratic murder and abuse.
In this regard, while Quinn acknowledges "that despite an environment which promised blood atonement and retribution, 'the level of violence of Mormonism's frontier sanctuary was much lower than in other western states,'" he notes that Mormons "[n]evertheless . . . created a different dimension for the violence in early Utah. . . . LDS leaders publicly and privately encouraged Mormons to consider it their religious right to kill antagonistic outsiders, common criminals, LDS apostates and even faithful Mormons who committed sins 'worthy of death.'
"Mormon theocracy created such a unique context for Utah violence that it will always be impossible to determine how many violent deaths occurred for theocratic reasons and how many merely reflected the American West's pattern of violence. As late as 1880-89, LDS leaders in San Juan County, Utah, were conducting 'aCchurch vigilance committee' that acted independently of civil officials.'"
Quinn further reports that "[w]hen religiously-motivated executions were too well known to ignore judicially, pioneer Mormon judges typically dismissed the charges or LDS juries acquitted LDS defendants. From the arrival of federal troops in Utah in 1858 until 1889, non-Mormons initiated the few investigations and court cases that provided enduring evidence of such theocratic killings. LDS leaders and the Church's newspaper typically condemned these murder investigations as anti-Mormon in motivation and conduct. Despite their well-earned reputation for keeping detailed records of community li fe and personal experiences, Mormon diarists rarely wrote about these events and perpetrators. That silence engulfed the diaries of the entire southern Utah community involved in the Mountains Meadows Massacre."
(D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power" (Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1997], pp. 259-60)
In what has been accurately described as "juicy" realities about Utah's lynching history that have not received the honest attention to historical detail that they deserve, Stanford J. Layton. former managing editor of the "Utah Historical Quarterly" (UHQ) and himself a respected historian, has published a book entitled, "Utah's Lawless Fringe: Stories of True Crime" (Signature Books, 2001). It offers an anthology of extra-legal examples wherein revenge-driven Utahans engaged in (among other criminal acts) race-based murders and hangings. That these violent crimes occurred in the Mormon Church-state of Utah is no accident.
In a UHQ review of Layton's compilation, Kay Gillespie notes that "institutional morality and values" (i.e., Mormon Church ones) influenced the face of crime during the state's early history. "Utah," Gillespie understatedly observes, "has a unique history--socially, legally and religiously." The essays in the book, Gillespie writes, "provide insight into the workings of the [legal] system [of Utah] as well as into the social/cultural conditions and attitudes common among the people of Utah at that time [toward law, crime and criminals]." Gillespie also notes that the essays provide insight into not only "these conditions, specifically," but into "the history of the state in general."
Gillespie further reports that Layton's anthology includes examples of "the failures [of the legal system] when lynchings represented the frustration of the citizens and pointed to the racial/ethnic suspicion and bias inherent within the state." One of the featured essays deals with the lynching of a Robert Marshall, an African-American, in Price, Utah. Another details the lynching of a Japanese man, George Segal, in Ogden (both written by Larry R. Gerlach).
("Reviews--'Utah's Lawless Fringe,'" at: http://signaturebooks.com/2010/12/reviews-utahs-lawless-fringe/
Back, now, to Gerlach who (writing as professor of History, emeritus, University of Utah) along with co-author Kimberly Mangun (assistant professor in Communication, University of Utah), notes in a separate assessment of the role of the Mormon Church in Utah lynchings titled, "Making Utah History: Press Coverage of the Robert Marshall Lynching, June 1925," that race-rooted lynchings occurred in Utah both before and after achieving statehood and that these murders were--not coincidentally--being committed in a climate of violence between the Mormon Church and federal officials, as well as between Mormons and non-Mormons, over a variety of issues relating to bedrock LDS desires and doctrines.
Gerlach and Mangun and lay out the larger context in which these Mormon-Utah lynchings took place:
"Lynching claimed thousands of victims across the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of these, as graphically depicted in 'Without Sanctuary," were African American men who lived in Southern states. . . . But the American West . . . also experienced an epidemic of summary collective murder in the latter half of the 19th century.
"Violence occurred in Utah Territory, as well. Conflict in the territory, created in 1850, was originally between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and federal officials over political dominance, and between followers and non-Mormons who challenged the Church's social and cultural mores.
"Later, hostilities were directed at ethnic and racial minorities. At least 11 men were hanged between 1860 and 1886, including a Chinese man, a Japanese man and two African- Americans. The first Black lynching victim, identified only as 'a damn n*****,' was hanged, circumstances unknown, at a remote railroad camp in 1869. The second, an itinerant laborer named Sam Joe Harvey, was arrested in 1883 after shooting and killing a police officer. Jailers turned him over to a vengeful mob who hanged him and then dragged his corpse down a Salt Lake City street for several blocks.
"With the advent of statehood in 1896, and the institutional modernization of the early 20th century, lynching came to be regarded as a peculiar historical relic of Utah's rowdy frontier days."
Gerlach and Mangun maintain that Utah attitudes toward lynching and its victims were clearly influenced by the Mormon Church's doctrines and practices regarding race and class. This was particularly important if the lynching victim was Black.
In the case of Robert Marshall, a Black coal miner who was lynched in Price, Utah, in 1925 for killing a Mormon police officer, LDS teachings on race and class were evident in the media reporting of Marshall's murder.
Gerlach and Mangun write:
" . . . [J]ournalists helped readers make sense of the Black-on-White violence disruptions to the social order [in terms that related to Mormon societal attitudes regarding] such things as power, status, race, class and religion. These concepts were particularly important when viewed against the backdrop of 'blackness vs. whiteness' in Mormon culture in the early 20th century.
"In 1920, 60% of Utah's total population of 449,396 belonged to the Mormon Church. [LDS writers] Newell K. Bringhurst and Darron T. Smith argue that 'Blackness in the Book of Mormon is presented as a sign of punishment for not obeying God's law.' As the religion developed, the LDS Church 'incorporated many . . . highly negative cultural connotations associated with Blackness into its own moral vocabulary.'
"One could argue that that vocabulary also was evident in newspaper coverage of [Marshall's] lynching, which from the outset framed Marshall as a condemned man due to his color and crime. . . .
"One cannot ignore the fact that the slain man was Mormon. Given the [LDS] religion's complicated historical stance on Black Americans and its early constuction of blackness as Other, dangerous and evil, it could be argued that deeply-held sentiments affected press coverage of all the events that transpired in 1925 and that the hanging was--at least for some members of the mob--motivated by racism that may have been shaped by religious tenets."
("Making Utah History: Press Coverage of the Robert Marshall Lynching, June 1925," Kimberly Mangun and Larry R. Gerlach, in "Lynching Beyond Dixie: American Mob Violence Outside the South," Michael J. Pfiefer, ed. [University of Illinois Press, 2013] pp. 132-33, 143-44, at: http://books.google.com/books?id=CR0TMCIfE14C&pg=PA156&lpg=PA156&dq=kimberley+mangun+Larry+lynch&source=bl&ots=Sysp-N6bL9&sig=9Ji4yZGsOpPSps-20FOX0wpRqfI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2-vTUeyfGYPV0gHO3oHICA&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=kimberley%20mangun%20Larry%20lynch&f=false
Fueled by the inherent racial bigotry of LDS doctrine (which, of course, served to poison the attitudes of its members towards people of color), the Mormon Church not only historically engaged in and otherwise supported racial hostilities against Blacks (including its official endorsement of human bondage; see: "Joseph Smith Officially Supported Southern Slavery in the name of God," at: http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,946649
), well into the 20th century the Mormon Church threatened those seeking to publicly expose proof of its institutionalized racism.
Richard Abanes, in his book "One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church," provides examples of the LDS Church's efforts at squashing evidence of its official anti-Black prejudice:
". . . [I]n 1954 [Apostle Mark E. Petersen declared]: 'If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can enter the Celestial Kingdom. He will go there as a servant.' Mormons, realizing the controversial nature of such a doctrine, for many years sought to keep its existence quiet. Although discussed among long-time members and LDS leaders, it certainly was not to be shared with potential converts, unbelievers or Mormon critics. Apostle Petersen, for instance, tried to suppress from public release the lecture in which he made the previous statement.. . .
"Wallace Turner gives the following account of what happened when Petersen found out his speech was being circulated:
"'This speech was delivered in a closed meeting. A copy of it came into the hands of James D. Wardle, the Salt Lake City barber who is a member of the Reorganized LDS Church. Wardle had enjoyed many years of baiting his Utah Mormon townsmen and made his copy available to Jerald Tanner, the LDS apostate who specializes in circulating anti-LDS materials. Tanner went to the LDS library, found a copy of the speech and assured himself that it was the same speech he had received from Wardle. But the Church would not give him a copy he could take away with him. Using the Wardle copy as his source, Tanner began to circulate the address. At that time Apostle Petersen was in England leading the mission there. In early 1965 he wrote to Tanner threatening to sue him if he did not stop publication and recall the previously issued copies of the speech. Tanner gleefully reproduced and circulated the letter. Since then Petersen has returned to Salt Lake City and no suit has been filed.'"
"And during a missionary conference in Oslo, Norway, LDS European Mission president Alvin R. Dyer warned his listeners to not reveal what he to say about Blacks:
"'I want to talk to you a little bit now about something that is not missionary work and what I say is NOT to be given to your investigators [i.e., potential converts] by any matter of means. . . . Why is it that you are White and not Colored? . . . [Remember that'] God is not unjust to cause a righteous spirit to be born as a cursed member of the Black race.'"
(Richard Abanes, "One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church" [New York, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2001], pp. 359-60, 600n21; for further information on Petersen's anti-Black remarks, including a speech he gave at Brigham Young University, 12 August 1954, entitled "Race Problems--As They Affect the Church," see Jerald and Sandra Tanner, "The Changing World of Mormonism: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Changes in Mormon Doctrine and Practice" [Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1980-81), p. 305)
How can such toxic racist Mormon attitudes have not encouraged physical acts of violence--including murder--against African-Americans? The truth of the matter is that racism engulfed early Mormon Utah, thanks to the bigoted doctrines and practices of the early Mormon Church itself. To this day, those racist teachings remain deeply embedded in canonized Mormon scripture. Those who wish to minimize or, worse, deny the role and influence of racist Mormon Church doctrine and practice in meting out vicious vigilante punishment in early Utah against "sinfully"-colored minorities need to think again.
--Response to Mormon Apologists Determined to Minimize Historic Utah Mormon Klan Activity
As noted above, faithful Mormon excuse-makers have attempted to downplay the history of anti-Black lynchings in Utah, claiming that their numbers were insignificant when compared to the number of lynchings, demontrations, riots and racial unrest in other states.
If only it was that satisfyingly simple.
Fellow RfMers have effectively put to rest previous efforts by Mormon apologists who now and then pop up on this board in a vain effort to wiggle LDS Church loose from its own hangman's noose by relying on a “ratio” comparison of lynching murder rates in Utah to those of other states.
As RfM poster “armtothetriangle” notes:
“The 'ratio' of lynchings is completely immaterial. Yes, the Klan had more of a presence in Mississippi . . . [b]ut using the numbers of lynchings to say, essentially. [that] 'Utah wasn't that bad' is as ridiculous an argument as those that assert it was only 1.5 million Jews rather than 6 million who were destroyed in the Holocaust. If there were 10 lynchings in Utah or 10 Jews gassed in the camps, if even one person was murdered in these ways, it was tragic and a travesty. [The point] is [that] racism was a principle of [the Mormon Church] and institutionalized well into living memory. It isn't that the remnants of racism are just below the surface of the current Church, photo ops aside; it's that racism is deeply ingrained in Mormonism.
"Speaking of ratios, how many black-white married couples are in any ward? Even millenial TBMs will not be marrying outside of their races. 'I don't know that we teach that,' but we still believe it in many ways."
RfM poster “dagny" also dispenses with the “ratio” rationalization desperately thrown up by defenders of the Mormon Church/KKK-related lynching history of Utah:
"[The TBM metric argument] . . . is not normalized or adjusted for opportunity. . . . Say, for example, you had 25,000 Black people living in the state where 250 were killed (1%) and you had 10 Black people living in a state where one was killed (10%). So, depending on the actual data, there are several things to consider. It could be more dangerous to live in a state where a higher percentage were killed. Or not depending on other variables. If you had more car accidents in New York than Montana, you could not conclude that the drivers are worse in New York. You might be able to conclude that your odds are higher in New York for being in an accident.
"Statistics can be misleading unless we know more variables and context. So, [a] single metric probably isn't sufficient alone to make [the ratio] case [for absolving the Mormon Church of its Uyah lynching problem]. Also, how do we evaluate racists who don't kill but have different ways of showing racism? The worst racists I've met were my LDS relatives. The second worse racists I've encountered were in N. Idaho. I live in Alabama. Anecdotal evidence is as dangerous as using one metric, though. I suspect that the degree of racism can vary in scope within any given state as much as it does between states. I've found as much diversity within any one race as I have between races."
Regardless of Mormon apologetic appeals to comparative numbers to make a grasping-at-straws case that official LDS racism isn't as bad as the non-LDS variety, it is clear that race-rooted lynchings occurred in Utah both before and after achieving statehood and that these murders were--not coincidentally--being committed in a climate of violence between the Mormon Church and federal officials, as well as between Mormons and non-Mormons, over a variety of issues relating to bedrock LDS desires and doctrines.
Mormonism's bigoted attitudes toward Blacks were seen by non-Mormon society of the day as likely relevant to Klan activity that began emerging in Utah even before Marshall's lynching. If nothing else, KKK exploits in LDS Utah did nothing to dispel the state's "white and delightsome" sense of racial superiority.
In an historical account originally published in the "History Blazer" entitled, "Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching," authors W. Paul Reeve and Jeffrey D. Nichols report:
"On April 19, 1922, some 500 people gathered in Sandy to honor Gordon Stuart, a Salt Lake County deputy sheriff slain in the line of duty. Mourners were shocked, however, when the graveside ceremonies were interrupted by eight or nine Ku Klux Klansmen who appeared at the cemetery in the form of a human cross.
"Dressed in white robes and tall hooded caps tipped with red tassels, the group marched silently to the gravesite and placed a cross of lilies with a banner that read 'Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Salt Lake Chapter No. 1,' upon Stuart's casket.
"The Klansmen then hurried to the edge of the cemetery where two automobiles with curtained windows and covered license plates whisked them away. It is uncertain whether Stuart was a fellow Klansman or if the group just wished to demonstrate their zeal for law and order by paying tribute to a fallen officer.
"Regardless, the event marked the first of several public appearances by the short-lived Ku Klux Klan of Utah.
"The Klan first surfaced in Utah in 1921, growing out of a broader national swell in Klan membership due partly to strong nativist sentiments throughout America. In Utah, initial organization came under a group of Salt Lake City businessmen desiring economic betterment through exclusive patronage by Klansmen of Klan-owned enterprises. Difficulties in recruitment and early opposition by community and Mormon Church leaders dampened the Klan's growth.
"By 1923, the Invisible Empire had managed to gain a small foothold in Salt Lake City and Ogden. During 1924-25, however, membership surged throughout the state primarily in response to a well-organized national recruitment campaign.
"Many Klan activities were clandestine but there were occasional overt demonstrations usually directed toward racial and ethnic minorities. In Salt Lake City, the Klan burned crosses on Ensign Peak and marched down Main Street; and in Magna, Klansmen burned a cross in front of a Greek man's store because he had married an American woman. In Helper, the hooded vigilantes engaged in extortion and took over the town's dance halls; and in Price in 1925, Klansmen lynched Robert Marshall, an itinerant black miner.
"In the late 19th and 20th centuries, extra-legal summary execution was a widely-used, if deplored, method of punishment for alleged criminals throughout the United States. Only four states have no recorded 'lynchings.'
"One historian estimates that at least 12 lynchings have occurred in Utah. Robert Marshall, an African-American, fits the profile of a typical lynching victim, both nationally and in Utah: non-white, transient and accused of murdering a law-enforcement officer.
"Marshall, an employee of the Utah Fuel Company at Castle Gate, had apparently feuded with company agent and town marshal J. Milton Burns. On June 15, 1925, Marshall 'drew his time' (quit and received his last paycheck) and waited on a wagon bridge for Burns to make his rounds. At about 7:30 p.m., Burns approached Marshall, who reportedly pulled a gun and shot him five times. He died the following evening. Marshall hid in another worker's shack until a sheriffs posse captured him at about 9:00 a.m. on June 18.
"News of Marshall's capture traveled quickly and by the time deputies arrived with the prisoner at the county courthouse in Price, a crowd had gathered. Local residents were incensed at 'the n*****' who had apparently murdered Burns, a long-time resident and father of six. The crowd reportedly forced the posse out of the car and drove Marshall about three miles out of town, accompanied by about 100 other vehicles. On a farm between Price and Wellington, some men in the crowd put a rope around Marshall's neck and threw it over the limb of a cottonwood tree. He was yanked 35 feet into the air, where he dangled, strangling for nine minutes and four seconds. Sheriff's deputies then cut him down and put him in the car but when he showed signs of life, he was again seized and hanged, this time successfully.
"The 'unfortunate affair' had strong local support. The 'Price Sun' noted that an observer would find that the 'mob' consisted of 'your neighbors, your friends, the tradespeople with whom you are wont to barter day by day, public employees, folks prominent in church and social circles, and your real conception of a "mob" might have undergone a radial turnover. . . . No attempt at concealment was made by any member of the lynching party. . . . [There was] quite a sprinkling of women--the wives and mothers of the good folks of the town. And, too, there were even some children.' Photographs of the hanged man were reportedly sold door-to-door for 25 cents.
[Here is a link to the actual postcard with a photo "of the lynching of Robert Marshall, a Black itinerant miner employed at Castle Gate, Utah; hanged near Price, Utah, on 18 June 1925," archived in the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, at: http://content.lib.utah.edu/cdm/ref/collection/UU_Photo_Archives/id/47370
"Governor George Dern, under pressure from the NAACP, condemned the lynching as 'a crime and a disgrace' and asked District Attorney Fred. W. Keller to investigate. He eventually charged 11 men, including six members of the posse that captured Marshall, with first-degree murder but the over 100 witnesses called could not, or would not, positively identify the perpetrators and all were freed. According to historian Larry R. Gerlach, '[I]t was common knowledge that Burns and virtually all of the 11 men charged with the lynching were Klansmen.'
"The lynching at Price and other threatening acts raised public awareness of Klan activities and eventually led to anti-mask ordinances in Ogden, Salt Lake City and Logan. These laws proved highly effective, as by 1926 they either drove Klansmen underground or out of the organization altogether for fear of possible social, political or business repercussions from public exposure. Nevertheless, the Klan remained active in Utah even into the 1930s but its numbers were few and actions inconsequential in local affairs. By 1932, evidence of the Klan in Utah had disappeared and remained absent until 1979 when an apparently brief resurgence occurred in southwestern Salt Lake Valley."
("Klansmen at a Funeral and a Terrible Lynching," by W. Paul Reeve and Jeffrey D. Nichols, in "History Blazer," September 1995, reprinted at: http://historytogo.utah.gov/utah_chapters/from_war_to_war/klansmenatafuneralandaterriblelynching.html
; Sources: Larry R. Gerlach, "Blazing Crosses In Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah" [Logan: Utah State University Press, 1982]; Dean L. May, "Utah: A People's History" [Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987]; "Utah Fuel Company Records," Utah State Historical Society Library; "Price Sun," 19, 26 June 1925; see also, copy of article, "Old Lynching Still Haunts Utah Town," by Shawn Foster, "Salt Lake Tribune," reprinted in "Moscow-Pullman Daily News," 24 March 1998, at: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2026&dat=19980324&id=SM0qAAAAIBAJ&sjid=h9AFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5270,1847898
Below is an account of the reconcilation service, held decades later, for Mormon-Utah lynching victim Robert Marshall, archived by the "Episcopal Press and News" and headlined, "Service of Reconciliation for Last Lynching in the West":
"The time was June 1925. The place, just outside Price, Utah. The occasion, the lynching of Robert Marshall, a Black coal miner. As it turned out, it was to be the last lynching of a Black man in the West.
"But it was to affect one person, C. Matthew Gilmour, now 88, a retired lawyer, and a longtime member of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the rest of his life. He was 15 years old, living in Price, and saw a man buy the rope for the hanging. And so, finally, after many months of work, on April 4, 1998, nearly 73 years after the event, he organized a day of reconciliation to make what amends can be made after so many years.
"Gilmour invited religious and political leaders to join him in a service of reconciliation, 'to recognize the injustice that had occurred and take steps to rectify it.' 'Injustice does not go away because of time,' said Gilmour at the April 4 gathering. 'It is important that injustice is acknowledged. Because of what we do here, we have a new beginning coming. We can realize that all of us are members one of another.'
"Marshall was lynched on June 18, 1925. He was one of 17 lynchings in the country in that year. A grim statistic, to be sure, but this number was down from an average of 57 per year only 3 years earlier.
"In the case of Robert Marshall, he was apprehended after a 2 1/2-day manhunt outside of Price, Utah. He was suspected of killing a White law enforcement officer in a mining town near Price.
"After his capture, sheriffs deputies transported him to jail in Price. He was left unattended in a car outside the jail while the deputies were inside making arrangements. An angry crowd reportedly took the car with Marshall in it and headed south toward the town of Wellington. As the crowd moved out of town, it grew in size and in determination. They were heading for a hanging tree outside of town. When the crowd, now numbering about 1,000, arrived at the tree, they hanged Marshall on it.
"The deputies caught up with the crowd, but too late to prevent Marshall's hanging. They arrived about 10 minutes after Marshall was hanged and cut him down. But when the crowd discovered that Marshall was still alive, they apparently overpowered the deputies and rehanged Marshall, this time until he was dead.
"Reports indicate Marshall's body was photographed hanging from the tree and then placed on display at the local funeral parlor. Pictures of the hanging were sold to the townspeople for 25 cents.
"Justice Gone Awry
"Shortly after the hanging, 11 men were arrested for the death of Marshall. When a Grand Jury was convened, in spite of over 120 witnesses called by the Grand Jury, not one person from the town came forward to witness against the men. In fact, one story describes the atmosphere in the jail as much like a party, with cold drinks for all the prisoners, and a festive atmosphere. One person reported at the time, 'Why make waves with these boys, now? The deed is done. It saved the town a bunch of money. They would have hung him anyway.' A 'Salt Lake Tribune' story of the time reported, 'Vengeance was claimed.'
"Dr. Larry Gerlach, past chairman of the History Department of the University of Utah, has done extensive research on the lynching of Robert Marshall. During an address at the April 4, 1998, event, Gerlach said, 'Robert Marshall was lynched because he was an itinerant Black man. Community solidarity kept the 11 accused from coming to trial. This was certainly an act of racism.'
"'There were other lynchings in Utah,' said Gerlach. 'This particular one is not historically significant. However, it illustrates both the thin veil of civility under which we live and the deep tragedy that resulted when the rule of law was ignored. All of us were victimized; freedom itself was put in jeopardy.'
"In his book, 'Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah,' Gerlach said that it was well known that nearly all the 11 accused men were members of the Klan, although apparently the Klan was not directly involved in the lynching.
"Gerlach also quoted the District Attorney at the time, F.W. Keller, as saying, 'I am ashamed at the disgraceful mockery of the law and order which has resulted in the affair right from the beginning and the manner in which the state has been held up to ridicule. May God have pity on you.'
"Service of Reconciliation
"Religious leaders of several denominations gathered on April 4  to participate in a service that would culminate in the placing of a gravestone on Marshall's unmarked grave. The leaders included The Rt. Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Utah; Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Church; the Rt. Rev. George Nederauer; Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Utah; the Rev. France Davis, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City; and John Banks of the Southern Utah State conference of the Mormon Church.
"Pat Shea, Director of the Bureau of Land Management, read a letter from President Clinton commending the April 4th gathering as an example of his call for an Initiative on Racism. In the letter, President Clinton said, 'Racial diversity has contributed to the strength of our country' but 'we must recognize that hatred and prejudice sometimes have separated us. Such community action as yours will help to bridge the gap.'
"Governor Mike Leavitt officially declared the day 'Racial Diversity Day' and in his proclamation spoke of the lynching of Robert Marshall and the gathering of religious leaders for the purpose of reconciliation as an important step in overcoming racial divisions.
"Mike Dalpiaz, Mayor of Helper, Utah, emphasized that 'we are not the judges here. We can't do anything about the people who don't agree with what we are doing.' Bernie Morris of Price, Utah, donated and inscribed the Georgia granite gravestone placed as the marker. The inscription reads, "Robert Marshall. Lynched June 18, 1925. A Victim of Intolerance. May God Forgive.'"
("Service of Reconciliation for Last Lynching in the West," by Jeff Sells, "Episcopal News Service," 8 May 1998, at: http://www.episcopalarchives.org/cgi-bin/ENS/ENSpress_release.pl?pr_number=98-2167
While some insist that Utah's lynching heritage is a relic of the past, the above-cited hanging murder of Marshall, even decades later, continued to stoke bitter divisions and animosities in Price. Reporting on the same reconciliation service, an article in "New York Times," headlined "Memories of Lynching Divide a Town," described the event:
"Down by the Price River, the bare, twisted limbs of a dried-out cottonwood are enough to make a grown man shudder.
"'It's still there, scary and ominous as ever,' the Rev. France A. Davis, pastor of Salt Lake City's largest Black church, said after visiting the old tree, site of what historians say was the last lynching of a Black man in the American West.
"On Saturday, the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Davis and other religious leaders, most of them white, will gather at the cemetery here to dedicate a gravestone of gray Georgia granite inscribed: 'Robert Marshall. Lynched June 18, 1925. A Victim of Intolerance. May God Forgive.'
"But on the eve of that gathering, for what the organizers call a ceremony of 'reconciliation and forgiveness,' this close-knit coal mining town in Utah's desert canyonlands is being torn apart by the memories that the occasion was intended to evoke.
"'A man came out of the store with a rope, and my father asked, "What's going on?,"' recalled C. Matthew Gilmour, 88, a White native of Price who planned the ceremony from his home in Salt Lake City. 'The man said, "They've caught him--we've got a necktie party." That was the phrase that stuck in my mind all these years: "a necktie party."'
"'The same racism that shot Martin Luther King in Memphis is the same prejudice that strung up Marshall in Price,' Mr. Gilmour, a retired lawyer, said of the all-White mob that lynched an itinerant Black miner suspected of murdering a coal company guard.
"Not so, says Kevin Ashby, publisher of the local newpaper, 'The Sun Advo'cate,' who calls the reconciliation day ''a slap in the face to the community' and says the organizers are trying 'to make a martyr out of a murderer.'
"On Tuesday, Mr. Ashby who, like other critics, does not deny the lynching itself, published a long editorial denouncing the reconciliation day as an imported hodgepodge of 'correct political thinking, rewriting of history and victim culture.'
"'On Wednesday,' he said, 'the calls started coming in. Then yesterday I got 50 calls. All the callers were in support' of the editorial.
"On Thursday afternoon, one of those callers sat in her living room, the blinds drawn and a vase of roses from her 80th birthday sitting forgotten on a shelf. Near tears, she asked that she not be identified by name.
"'Why, why resurrect this thing?' said the woman, who recalls visiting the jail where her father, the town marshal, was one of 11 men briefly held for the lynching. 'Why attack the second and third generation?'
"As a result of the controversy brought on by plans for the gathering, she said, 'I can't go shopping, I can't go to the beauty shop--people always ask me about it.'
"Mr. Gilmour says it was President Clinton's call for a national dialogue on race that inspired him and the other organizers to plan ceremonies at the resting place of a lynching victim who for 73 years has lain in an unmarked grave.
"But with the reconciliation day organized largely by outsiders from Salt Lake City, much of Price has retreated. Isolated by geography, Carbon County, with only 20,000 residents today, has long felt alienated from Salt Lake City, 120 miles to the northwest. Unionized, industrial, Democratic and a religious and ethnic mix, the county is an anomaly in a state that is overwhelmingly anti-union, Republican and Mormon.
"'Once again, Carbon County gets the black mark,' objected J. Eldon Dorman, an 88-year-old retired doctor, echoing a sentiment heard around town. 'This was not a racist thing at all. If Marshall had been an Italian or a Greek, he would have gotten the same thing.'"
("Memories of Lynching Divide a Town," by James Brooke, "New York Times," 4 April 1998, at: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDMQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F1998%2F04%2F04%2Fus%2Fmemories-of-lynching-divide-a-town.html&ei=w7fTUdWALOXT0wHT4YHYBA&usg=AFQjCNHp4uwA9V6-z0XzXBLzyZoc34RCvA
--Welcome to "Modern-day" Utah, Where Its Lynching Legacy Lives On
Is Utah really past the Mormon-fueld racial hatred that helped lead to the lynching of Robert Marshall and other members of its non-White ethnic communities?
Fast-forward to 2012, where the Secret Service visited a White Utah man to investigate the ceremonial lynching of a Black. From an "Associated Press" article headlined, "Utah Halloween Display Had Romney Lynching Obama":
"ORANGEVILLE--A disabled man used an effigy of President Barack Obama in a Halloween display that earned a visit from the U.S. Secret Service.
"The Emery County man had a dummy of Obama hanging from a rope held by another dummy of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
"A Utah-based Secret Service agent, Michael Mantyla, confirms an agent visited the property Saturday in Orangeville, but the yard display had been dismantled at the mayor’s request.
"Orangeville Mayor Patrick Jones says the paraplegic man’s parents ran a rope over a tree and set up the display. The parents quickly took down the whole thing.
"Jones says they didn’t mean to open a racial divide in a town he calls inclusive."
("Utah Halloween Display Had Romney Lynching Obama," by "Associated Press," 29 October 2012, at: http://www.standard.net/stories/2012/10/29/utah-halloween-display-had-romney-lynching-obama
Then, in 2013, there was the Utah case of a Klan costume –wearing “joke” at a local high school, where one of the participants was sporting his KKK robes that had been made for him by his mother:
“(Smithfield, Utah): Two students at a Smithfield high school were suspended last week after coming to class on Halloween dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan, administrators said.
“The two Sky View High School juniors, including one White student and one African-American student, were sent home Thursday and suspended on Friday. . . . One of the students was barred from playing in a football game last week.
"'It was a joke that they thought would be funny, but we took it very seriously,' said Dave Swenson, the principal of Sky View High School, who declined to release the students’ names. 'We had the parents in and let them know that as we investigated, there was no intention of being racist. It was just him making a bad choice.'
“At one point during Halloween, the White student contacted his African-American jiu-jitsu instructor, Carl Sims. The teen sought advice after an African-American classmate who played football with him threatened to beat him up over the costume.
“Sims told the newspaper he was shocked the student chose the outfit, which featured a robe, hood and torch.
"'When you dress up as a Klansman who raped and killed and tortured my ancestors, that’s an issue,' Sims said.
“He said he was also taken aback that the student’s mother reportedly helped her son make the costume.
"'And that just floored me because a 16-year-old kid is going to be a kid, but a 40-year-old woman ought to be able to understand this isn’t appropriate,' Sims said.
“Swenson said he held a meeting Monday between school officials and the students’ parents to discuss the implications of the outfits.
"'We took the opportunity to educate them on how inappropriate and how offensive that is and how kids don’t feel safe and how that’s one of our big priorities, to make sure kids feel safe here,' he said.”
(“Two Suspended for Wearing KKK Costumes to N. Utah School,” by “Associated Press,” 5 November 2013, at: http://www.sltrib.com/news/justice/1314012-155/student-sims-students-suspended-african-american
--Conclusion on the History of Mormon Klan Inclusion
Why, of course, Utah has always been racially "inclusive." (If you believe that, I've got a copy of the Book of Mormon that I'll give to you free, if you'll simply agree to join up and spend the rest of your life paying tithing to support the continued publication of its racist rants, a couple examples of which are provided below:
*2 Nephi 5:21
“And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.
*3 Nephi 2:14-15
“And it came to pass that those Lamanites who had united with the Nephites were numbered among the Nephites; And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites.”
(For other examples of blatantly racist, officially canonized Mormon Church scriptures, along with other doctrinal teachings and on-high authoritative Mormon Church justifications for their bigoted contents, see “Mormon Racism,” by Chris Tolworthy, at: http://exmormon.org.uk/tol_arch/atozelph/racism
Edited 17 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2014 04:02AM by steve benson.